This is the second in a series of articles about what to do if you keep running out of time during the LSAT. This articles discusses LSAT guessing strategies. This article series covers the following articles:
LSAT Guessing Strategies
Remember, there is no penalty for getting an answer wrong on the LSAT test. Many standardized tests will actually take a fraction of a point away from your raw score if you get an answer wrong. That is to discourage you from guessing during the test. Not so with the LSAT. Since there is no penalty for a wrong answer, you have no excuse for leaving any questions unmarked in your answer form. For every answer you fail to at least make a guess at, you are losing at least 1/5 of a point (since you have five answer choices, a random guess will be right one out of five guesses on average). If you can eliminate some answers, that ratio increases. If you can eliminate three answers, each guess you make is worth one-half a raw point. Not bad for making a guess.
As you gain more experience as a TestSherpa student, you will learn to think like a test maker. You will know what answers are classic wrong answers as well as be able to identify the right answer. Part of you process will even include being able to guess what the right answer should sound like before you even read them. Until you get to that point though, rest assured that you can use some quick thinking to guess your way through the hard questions. Take the following example from a Reading Comprehension section:
1. The author of the passage argues that the evidence supporting the new plan is
Even without reading the passage that this question was taken from, we can quickly eliminate three of the wrong answers. We know from the question stem that the author of the passage is making an argument about the evidence supporting a new plan.
Eliminate answers (A) and (C) right away. First, evidence supporting a position would not be theoretical or speculative. More importantly, the words theoretical and speculative are synonyms. There is only one right answer per question, so they can’t both be right. Cross them off. Furthermore, (E) is unlikely, since most evidence offered in support of plans and theories is statistical in nature. Why would the author need to argue that?
So, we’re left with (B) and (D) which both seem reasonable. We have a 50% chance with this question and we haven’t even read the passage yet. Imagine how much better you could do if you actually read the passage.
What Letter Should I Guess?
Statistically speaking, it really doesn’t matter. Each letter has a 20% chance of being the right answer. Some test takers like to guess the same letter over and over. Some look at a pattern on their answer grid and make a guess. It just doesn’t matter; you have the same chance of guessing right with each question.
Some commercial test prep companies will tell you that based on their analysis of past LSAT answers, it is extremely unlikely that the same letter will be used for the right answer four times in a row. Does that mean that you shouldn’t guess (E), even though you really think (E) is right, just because you thought the three previous answers were also (E)?
So the question is, should your previous answers affect your guesses on the current question?
No. First, you might have been wrong in a previous answer. Second, the LSAT is predictable, but you never know when they could throw you a curve. Finally, just because the odds are low that four answers in a row will share the same letter, the odds of picking the right answer out of one of the two answers you’ve eliminated down to are still 50-50.
Let’s say you’re sitting at a roulette table in Las Vegas. You’re there with your friends celebrating your acceptance to Yale Law School because you studied so hard for the LSAT. You want to make a simple bet that the number is either going to be black or red. You’ve been watching the roulette wheel hit black 11 times in a row. Do you bet on black or on red? What are the odds that the next number will be black, yet again? It seems unlikely that a roulette wheel would hit a black number 12 times in a row – and yet — the odds are 50-50, since it is a brand new spin with two chances (not counting 0 or 0-0 of course). As an experienced TestSherpa student, if you feel that (E) is the correct answer, mark (E). Don’t let something as illogical and arbitrary as an answer grid sway your choice.
Now that we’ve talked about LSAT guessing strategies, the next article will take on the subject of LSAT Time Management.